Delivering a presentation

Delivering university presentations can cause anything from minor butterflies to a flood of anxiety. Here, we share crucial guidance to help make the experience of delivering a presentation just a little more pleasurable. Even if presenting is a walk in the park for you, we’ve got some tips to make sure your presentation is the best it can be.

  • Last updated Jun 25, 2019 12:40:16 PM
  • Billy Sexton and Tuula Petersen

Planning a presentation

When planning a presentation, there are plenty of different aspects to consider. Most importantly, you should make sure your chosen topic is related to the assigned theme or question. Always ask yourself: “Does my presentation fit into the overarching theme or answer the assignment question?” Veering away from the task could heavily penalise your final grade.

First things first…

Before you start, read the marking criteria and formulate your plan with this in mind. This will help to guarantee a good grade and relieve any self-inflicted stress.

Your introduction to the topic should explain the main takeaways your audience can expect to gain from your presentation, and your conclusion should summarise your key points. The bulk of your presentation should be structured logically, have relevant and targeted material, and be the right length.

Finally, consider your audience before planning your script. Will you be presenting in front of a panel of tutors and professors, or will you be presenting in a lecture hall full of students? The audience and setting should influence how you plan to deliver the presentation, as well as the tone of voice you will use.

Be creative and informative

In order to keep your lecturer interested and your audience engaged, you should try to include original content and new information. Aim to think outside the box and present your subject in a unique format. A plain PowerPoint presentation with a white background and black text is unlikely to stimulate your audience, whereas making a Prezi with a healthy mix of bullet points, graphics and a helpful handout is more likely to engage.

Timing is everything

Make sure to check the amount of time you’ll be allocated to deliver your presentation and the level of insight required. You won’t need to regurgitate an entire textbook, but neither should you just provide the basic knowledge. Ideally, you should put forward coherent points that introduce further areas of debate for your audience to explore further. So if you were presenting a topic related to sources of constitutional law, you could touch upon the debate surrounding the British Bill of Rights, highlighting some of the main points and indicating where this debate is heading in the future.

Can you back that up?

Any point you make should be backed up with evidence either from your course syllabus or through further reading. Aim to use credible sources, such as academic literature, and try to verify the information you choose to include in your presentation from multiple sources.

Delivering a presentation

It goes without saying that you should practise your presentation before the big day. You need to make sure you have your timing down and that you avoid reading from your script as a default. This will help to keep your audience engaged. Staring at your notes and mumbling is never the best strategy.

Engaging your audience

Making eye contact, maintaining an upright posture and speaking clearly are all crucial. Obviously, you may still be nervous when presenting, but remember that everyone feels nervous to varying degrees before standing in front of an audience and presenting a topic. Take a few deep breaths and make sure you have water at the ready, just in case your throat dries up.

Remember: more often than not, you’ll be the most knowledgeable person in the room on the subject you choose to present, so make sure you deliver your presentation in a comprehensible and confident manner.

Other ways to engage the audience is to use hand gestures and ask rhetorical questions. Only use humour when you know it’s going to go down a treat. If in doubt, don’t.

Presentations are inevitable at university, but you should put as much effort into them as you do your essays!

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